Something strange happened yesterday as I was driving to work. A song by Aaron Burdette came on the radio and when he sang the line, “I wish I could go back and do it again without the stress…just the happiness,” tears started running down my face. I don’t think anything like that has ever happened to me before. I started thinking about my children and the years they were growing up. Often what pops up are the times I goofed up and was a bad mother, and I beat myself up. Other times I think about the struggles we experienced. But when images appear in my mind of my children being amazing and beautiful, I am overcome by waves of joy and a sadness that those small children are gone. I miss them so much, even though I am proud of who they are now.
I visualize Seth at age three taking my hand to help me over a muddy place in the yard of his nursery school, telling me to be careful. I remember him assembling complicated model airplane kits in minutes. I thought he could read the directions, but he has this remarkable sense of spatial relations and just knew how the pieces should fit together. I see him at fifteen flying alone up to Boston to catch a bus to New Hampshire to look at a boarding school, and later flying alone to Oregon with his bicycle in tow to set himself up in college in Eugene. I see him fearless as he navigates a dory full of passengers down the Colorado River, or flying down the snowy slopes as a great skier and member of the Ski Patrol. He is so brave and independent.
I see Natty exuding kindness to everyone around him, even jerks. He still is like that and he never says an ill word about anyone. He still loves Gund stuffed animals, even though they are in his baby’s crib. And of course he is the sweetest daddy! I remember him as a standout baseball catcher, soccer goalie, and then lacrosse All-American goalie. Seeing my son awarded the All-American certificate as a high school senior was surreal, as I can barely walk a sidewalk without stumbling. And watching him juggle orders in a frantic restaurant kitchen makes me so proud. He is both creative and hard-working.
An image of Abby in third grade standing on stage at Country Day singing a solo of the Battle Hymn of the Republic was an early indication of her boldness and acting chops. She allowed me to drag her all over creation for movie auditions and was far less upset than I was when some other child got the part. In fifth grade she went head to head with the CD headmaster over her refusal to salute the flag the day the US started bombing Iraq in the first Gulf War. She had heard the news on the radio in the car on the way to school and was protesting. Now she has created a theater for children in Asheville to teach audiences about social justice. She is a phenomenon.
On this Mother’s Day weekend, I want to thank my children for giving me so much joy. We went through a lot together and they were there for me the whole time, even when I forced them to work for my catering company! Of all the things in my life that make me proud, my children are by far the top of the list. I do wish I could go back and do it again without the stress, but with just the overwhelming happiness.